Big news for Aussie solar power

It's big news for solar power this week with the announcement on July 31 that the construction on Australia's - and indeed the southern hemisphere's - largest solar power station is soon set to begin.

Australia has often played the role of pioneer for solar power due to its high concentration of sunlight and vast areas of open land.

This project continues that solar legacy. Construction will begin in January, as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has finalised its financial arrangements with developer AGL Energy Limited (AGL.)

"Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world and we should take advantage of that natural asset," said minister for climate change, Mark Butler.

"This project is 15 times larger than any other solar power station in Australia and represents a big step forward towards making solar a bigger part of Australia's energy mix."

Two sites across Western NSW will host the solar photovoltaic plant, amounting to a combined area four times the size of Sydney's central business district.  That's one 102 MW solar plant located at Nyngan, with another 53 MW plant at Broken Hill.

The total cost of the project is around $450 million, with funding being provided by ARENA and the NSW government. Not only is the government helping to fund this project, it is also providing money through the Education Investment Fund for the University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales to conduct solar power research relevant to these projects.

According to AGL, each year the solar plant will generate approximately 360,000 megawatt hours of electricity. That's enough to power over 50,000 NSW households.

Technology for the plant is being provided by First Solar Pty Ltd. It will provide engineering, procurement and construction services for both power plants, and will make use of its advanced thin-film PV modules.

Mr Butler commented on the success of solar, and other forms of renewable energy in Australia, by saying that studies show carbon pollution is coming down as renewable energy production grows. This is a way of protecting against unwieldy electricity prices and emissions-heavy energy technologies.

According to Mr Butler, clean energy has also been employing a number of Australians - currently around 24,000 - a huge increase on the 10,000 in the industry five years ago.

Are you hopeful for Australia's solar power future?

Posted by Charlie Moore